Sunday Homilies- Fr. Luke Uebler
“The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Words from our Gospel today from the 5th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give you his peace and his joy.
Imagine this scenario: You are sitting one night with your family. You feel irritated, overtired, and underappreciated. Something happens to push you beyond your patience and you suddenly lose your temper. You yell at everyone, tell them that they are selfish, throw your coffee mug across the room, and stamp out, violently slamming the door as a final statement. Then you sit alone in your room, alienated. Eventually, you fall asleep, leaving things in that unreconciled state. The next morning, now contrite and somewhat sheepish, wounded in pride, you come back to the table. Everyone is sitting there having breakfast. You pick up your coffee mug (which someone has washed and returned to its place), pour yourself some coffee, and without saying a word, sit down at the table – your contrition and your wounded pride showing in your every move. Your family is not stupid and neither are you. Everyone knows what just happened the night before. Everyone knows what this means. What is essential is being said, without words. You are reaching out to touch the hem of the garment, like the desperate hemorrhaging woman of the Gospel today; you are making the basic move toward healing, your body and your actions are saying something more important than any words: “I want to be part of you again.” At that moment the hemorrhaging stops. If you dropped dead today, you would die reconciled to your family.
What has just been described is more than an analogy of how reconciliation works. It is the reality of reconciliation, that we can be together with each other again. At a fundamental level, we have our sins forgiven in the same way that the woman in the gospel stopped her hemorrhaging: through reaching out and coming into contact with Christ’s body, that is, the Eucharist and the community that is the Body of Christ. That serves as our act of contrition and is the basis which makes reconciliation possible. Indeed, our sins are forgiven by allowing ourselves to be seated at the same table, reaching out to each other in sincerity and with a measure of contrition. Indeed, we are able to forgive each other’s offenses through the grace of Christ that is within us. And this healing power that derives from Christ’s Body is given away so freely and in such abundance. Without even asking, without Jesus even being aware of her presence, the hemorrhaging woman procures his mercy and grace by merely touching the edge of his garment. Such is the healing power, and the responsibility, that God has given to each of us in Christ as members of his Body. But if we our sins can be forgiven by touching the community and by going to Eucharist, what is the purpose of the sacrament of Reconciliation? What then is the place of an explicit, person-to-person confessing of sins to a priest?
In the story of the woman touching the hem of the Jesus’ cloak, there are two moments of healing: The touch and the explicit confrontation where she approaches Jesus and tells him the whole truth. Only then does she hear the words, “your faith has saved you,” and can go home in peace free from the fear and trembling that still had a hold of her life until that moment. The person-to-person exchange completes something very important and is part of the one organic movement towards full reconciliation and peace. Though reconciliation happens through an act, words, at a certain point, become very important too. Those who do not apologize explicitly live in between a presumptive egotism thinking, “well of course they understand where I am coming from and have accepted me back” and a self-created doubt: “have I actually been forgiven?” Perhaps, a family is not ready to trust someone just yet, and perhaps a family is more willing to forgive than we realize. How do we know where we stand unless we have that conversation? Mature people apologize explicitly and we become mature by apologizing. As anyone who has ever been abused will tell you, something is not complete until there has been an explicit acknowledgement of wrongdoing that is not excused or rationalized away. As well, anyone familiar with the healing of addictions, who understands how any twelve-step program works, will tell you that until one faces one’s sins with searing honesty and tells them face-to-face to another person, there will be no final healing and peace. We are relational people. Our lives are not lived simply between God and me, but between God and us. So, when one believes oneself to be reconciled by touching the community of faith, this does not take away the need for taking responsibility for one’s actions. Properly understood, it does the opposite. When someone understands themselves as part of the Body of Christ, then we begin to shun that sort of individualism which tempts us never to confess to another person, especially an official representative of Christ’s Body the Church. Reaching out begins a process of healing requiring that a deeply personal, face-to-face encounter take place, just as it was for the woman who told Jesus the whole truth.
So, let me conclude my homily today with a something of a challenge. I’m glad you are here. Showing up again and again says something about your desire to be part of the Body of Christ and the Christian community. And God blesses that desire in the gift of Holy Communion that we all share together in Christ. But although the hemorrhaging has stopped, don’t let the wounds you carry go untreated or they may become infected. We have a beautiful sacrament in Reconciliation that can be healing and therapeutic. And if it’s been a while for you, that’s OK. It took the hemorrhaging woman 12 years to figure out she needed more help than what she was originally offered. The priest is there for you and will help you through it and we will always make ourselves available to you if the scheduled 3-4pm time on Saturday doesn’t work for you. We just want you to experience God’s mercy for yourself. So, come to the sacrament of reconciliation, that you also may go in peace, having received the healing grace of God.[i]
[i] Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality, Doubleday: New York, 1999, pgs. 86-94